Friday, February 22, 2013

Mission to Mars


Remember Dennis Tito?  He’s the richy-rich dude who paid many millions of dollars to become a space tourist way back in the day.  He reportedly spent $20 million to spend a week up at the ISS.  I’ve sort of got mixed feelings about that.  Part of me feels like people with that kind of money ought to just donate it to the scientists who could put it to decent use in our space exploration ventures (you know, back when we had some).  On the other hand, if I was a richy-rich gal—and if I could get some super-duper Dramamine—I’d be tempted to buy my way into space, too.  I mean, come on; it’s space we’re talking about.

Now, Mr. Tito apparently has a plan to send a couple of people slingshotting around Mars, and if rumors can be believed, he plans to do it in the next five years.  Now, in fairness, I’ll say that it’Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.nets probably too soon for feelings at this point, mixed or otherwise, since the guy hasn’t even had his official press conference yet, and little bits of information are just sort of trickling out about the ether.  Still, fair or not, I do have those mixed feelings already.  This time it’s not about thinking he ought to take whatever insane amounts of money he’s thinking about putting into this endeavor and funneling it all to NASA. I mean, I’m still a big believer in letting the professionals do the work, but NASA has been screwed over so much, and dwindled down to practically a shell of a useful organization, so I’m not sure they could get the job done any more efficiently than a highly motivated private company. 

But, I do worry about the zeal of a highly motivated private company, and whether they could be restrained enough to ensure a safe situation for their astronauts.  Because, really, when it comes to sending a couple of people 34 million miles or so into space—and hopefully back again—five years isn’t a very long time to make sure you’ve got things right.  And you really do want to get things right.

Still, I can’t deny how exciting it would be to send people to Mars, even just to orbit it, within my lifetime.  And, yeah, I’m hoping to be around at least another five years, so it would be very cool to see it happen.  But I think maybe it’s too early to be getting too excited.  Even so, you can bet I’ll be waiting to hear what comes out of that official press conference next week.  Like I said, this is space we’re talking about.